Wine Rack Discusses Ontario Operations Including Newest Store Opening [Interview]


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Wine Rack, the retail division of Arterra Wines Canada, has opened its 164th store in Ontario.

The Yonge Street and St. Clair Ave E Wine Rack location is the newest store expression for the brand.

Will Meijer

Will Meijer, Executive Vice President of Sales at Wine Rack, said the brand is all about local Ontario wines. It sells exclusively the products made in Ontario – wines and ciders.

“Our focus is to make Ontario wine accessible for all,” he said. “We’ve got convenient locations all across the province. We’ve got very handy online and delivery options and we have award-winning staff. Leger Marketing rated us in the top 10 in 2022 in best in-store experience in Ontario. So we have great, knowledgeable staff that can host any consumer from novice to enthusiast and help them make a great selection for their needs.”

Wine Rack Yonge and St. Clair (Image: Wine Rack)
Wine Rack Yonge and St. Clair (Image: Wine Rack)

Wine Rack was established in the early 1990s when some wineries came together. They had their own individual winery stores at the time.

“We have a mixture of footprint. We have some standalone stores that are street stores, some are in strip malls, and some are in the footprints of select Ontario grocery stores,” said Meijer. 

Arterra Wines Canada has been a pioneer in the Canadian wine industry. Its origins date back to 1874 when the Niagara Falls Wine Company was founded. One hundred twenty years later, it became known as Vincor International. Throughout the 20th century, trailblazing wineries like Jackson-Triggs and NK’Mip were founded and it acquired well-known wineries and brands such as New Zealand’s Kim Crawford. In 2006, it was acquired by Constellation Brands, a U.S.-based company that is a leading international producer and marketer of beer, wine and spirits. In 2016, the Canadian branch of Constellation Brands was acquired by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, and Arterra Wines Canada was born.

Meijer said the opening of the new location is following how the different communities in Ontario are evolving and the density that is building up within Toronto. 

“When you look at the population that is surrounding those areas, it’s a really important destination and locale for us,” he said. “We used to have a store there some time ago and we’re constantly moving around and moving and renovating stores to address our community needs. This was a really important place for us to open back up into.

“And this is one of our larger stores. In the larger footprint, we’ve got a bigger chill zone or more available cold single serve products for more convenience. It’s a larger footprint so we can activate winemaker talks, we can do special programs, we can hold special events. We have a much more diverse assortment, including Wine Rack exclusives that you can only get at Wine Rack and also some more premium VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) wines as we expand our estate properties in Ontario as well.”

Wine Rack Yonge and St. Clair (Image: Wine Rack)
Wine Rack Yonge and St. Clair (Image: Wine Rack)

Meijer said the 164 stores are tied back to winery licences.

“So we won’t have more than 164 stores. So we’re not going to be opening net new ones but we will continue to evaluate the footprint, make sure we’re serving the province with super convenient locations with award-winning wines and access to Ontario’s amazing wines and our customer service in the stores,” he said.

“We’re constantly evolving but we are all across the province – northern Ontario down to Windsor and wineries east and west.”

Meijer said wine can be an intimidating category. It’s one of the reasons Wine Rack places such an emphasis on customer service. 

“We do recognize that a lot of consumers in Canada right now are struggling. It’s a tough economic time right now. So we’ve got a lot of really good offers and promotions and SKUs really geared towards recession-busting and helping people get value out of their wine experience if they are struggling with their disposable income.

“Ontario consumers are very interested in local . . . Consumers are really interested in sustainability. They’re really interested in local businesses. And wine is one of Ontario’s largest value-added, agri-food businesses. We grow it, we harvest it, we bottle it and we sell it. All within a couple of hundred kilometres. It’s a really significant part of Ontario’s economy.”

Wine Rack Yonge and Eglinton (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Meijer said the most important thing that Wine Rack does is connect Ontarians to Ontario wine country.

“There’s a couple of ways we do that. In our new stores, we’re putting more and more digital assets in so consumers can connect more directly. We’re piloting digital price tags and QR codes so we can connect consumers to a brand to hear about it from a winemaker directly to learn more (about wine). Digitally trying to connect all Ontarians to Niagara and Prince Edward County.

“And also through convenience. All of our stores are open on statutory holidays because people celebrate differently. They celebrate the way they want to celebrate. We want to be convenient and accessible for them. And also delivery options. Not everyone lives close to a Wine Rack store. As much as we’re spread out really well across the province, not everyone has one down the street so offers a bunch of shipping options, we also have Skip and Uber for more immediate delivery but we really want to connect consumers digitally and physically as much as we can to wine region whether you’re in Niagara’s backyard or you’re in northern Ontario.”

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.


  1. I think it is important to note that the majority of beverages in these stores are international and Canadian blends. This means there is not quite the same focus on Ontario as one would want to believe. It is somewhat misleading to think that Wine Rack is championing the Ontario wine industry when the consistently focus on and promote wines that are made from juice brought in from other countries and areas that would not pass the VQA stardardized tasting. Not to mention that money goes to places outside of the Ontario economy. Arterra’s wider portfolio and a small section of wine rack does include VQA wines that are all Ontario sourced and made, but this story misleads the public into thinking that there is a passion from all involved about keeping things local when that is just not the case.


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